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March 22: College of Fine Arts Mourns Loss of Professor Emeritus Cletus Anderson


Eric Sloss

Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts
Mourns Loss of Professor Emeritus Cletus Anderson

PITTSBURGH—Cletus Anderson, professor emeritus in the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University, died peacefully at his home March 16. He was 69.  

Anderson served on the School of Drama design faculty for 35 years. In 1978 he was appointed to head the design and production option, a role he held until 1995. He retired from teaching in 2003.     

"His incalculable contribution to generations of drama students, his taste and stature as a theatre artist, and his deep humanity and friendship will be missed by us all," said Elizabeth Bradley, head of the School of Drama.    

Cletus and Barbara AndersonAnderson was adored and admired by colleagues and students. For his mentorship of students, he received the College of Fine Arts' (CFA) Henry Hornbostel Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

"Cletus was a magnificent teacher, a demanding mentor and an inspiration to his students,” said acclaimed writer, director and producer John Wells (A'79). “There are hundreds of us who benefited from his dedication and his enthusiasm. He set the bar very high, dared us to try and get over it — then made sure we did."  

Anderson may also be remembered as the production designer for the classic zombie films "Night of the Living Dead," "Day of the Dead" and "Creepshow," directed by friend George Romero, a 1961 Carnegie Mellon fine arts graduate. He co-authored the book "Costume Design" with his long-time collaborator and wife, Barbara Anderson, professor and associate dean of CFA.      

Anderson received his bachelor's degree in fine arts from Ohio University and his master's degree in fine arts from the Yale School of Drama. His storied career as a production designer continued with Romero in the films  "The Dark Half" for Orion Films, "Two Evil Eyes" and "KnightRiders." He was the production designer for "MonkeyShines," a Charles Evans Production released by Orion Films, and "The Silence at Bethany."    

He was the art director for "Frank's Garage," a pilot for a children's series with WQED; "Math ShowSeries" for PBS; "The Boy Who Loved Trolls," a PBS WonderWorks Series; "Leatherstocking Tales," an Emmy Award-winning series for "Once Upon a Classic"; "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"; "John Marshall," sponsored by the United States Judicial Commission; and "Decades of Decision," a 12-part series on the American Revolution sponsored by National Geographic.    

Anderson was the costume designer for "George Washington: Portrait of a Hero as a Young Man" and "John and Sam Adams: The Boston Massacre." He was also a set designer for "Fighting Back," a story about Vietnam War veteran and former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier.     

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette theater critic Chris Rawson called Anderson the "dean of Pittsburgh set and costume designers" and an inspiration to some of the most successful designers nationwide.

Anderson has made a lasting impact on Pittsburgh's theater-design community, working on national television specials produced by WQED and many theater productions throughout the years. He came out of retirement last year to design the set for the Civic Light Opera's cabaret "Forbidden Broadway." He leaves a network of friends and former students throughout the entertainment industry.     

Anderson is survived by his wife and their two children, Catherine Anderson and Christopher Anderson; son-in-law Matthew O'Connell; and grandchildren Madeline Rose Anderson O'Connell and Taylor Quinlan Anderson O'Connell.     

A memorial service is being planned for April at Carnegie Mellon. For the date and time, call the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama Box Office at 412-268-2407.   

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to Carnegie Mellon University — Anderson Production Fund, School of Drama, Purnell Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Friends are invited to stop by the Anderson house, 2030 Beechwood Blvd, from 5 to 7 p.m., Saturday, March 24.


[Cletus Anderson is pictured above with his wife, Barbara.]